Visitors who are unfamiliar with French customs can significantly improve their stay by being aware of some simple rules of etiquette. For instance, it is entirely appropriate to shake hands when meeting someone for the first time, while the well-known kiss on each check is better reserved for people you already know.

It is commonly said that the French are not responsive to English-speaking visitors, but making an effort can really help. Just a few simple phrases can go a long way. Examples include bonjour for hello, bonne journee for have a nice day, bonne soiree for have a nice evening, enchante for nice to meet you, s’il vous plait for please, and je vous en prie for you’re welcome. It also helps if you ask parlez-vous anglais? before launching into English.

When dining, wine glasses are filled halfway only, never to the brim. Bread is broken, not cut, and put next to the plate, not on it. Coffee or tea comes after dessert, not concurrently. And hands stay above the table, and elbows stay off. The bill will include service, but it is the custom to round up with small change, up to as much as 5 percent in an upscale restaurant. The only exception would be a sign that says pourboire interdit, which means tipping is forbidden.

Restrooms in bars and restaurants are for customers only. Most bathrooms are located downstairs, and are unisex. Turkish toilets still exist, so don’t be shocked if you are presented with nothing more than a hole in the ground. If you need a public restroom, look to department stores and public parks. There are also pay-toilets available on the street, which are pretty well-maintained via self-sanitizing systems.